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The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

NPR Tiny Desk Winner


The Philharmonik has won the 2024 Tiny Desk Contest with his groovy funk chart “What’s it All Mean.” The Philharmonik submitted a video of him playing his original song behind a desk (a requirement of the competition) back in September of 2023 and was picked out of thousands of artists as the winner of the contest.  

Singer Christian Gates, who is the primary artist of The Philharmonik, was supported by Moriah Wenzel (background vocals), Alicia Huff (background vocals), Courtney Miller (drums), Samuel Phelps (bass), Darius Upshaw (guitar), Connor Chavez (guitar), Jimmy Toor (flute) and Jeffery Archie (keys), in the first  release of “What’s it All Mean” in 2023.  The Philharmonik made a fresh energetic song that is certainly deserving of this win.

“The song, “What’s It All Mean?” is completely timeless,” writes Stephen Tompson on Pop Culture Happy Hour. “This is a beautiful song and it’s made by somebody who really thought about the Tiny Desk in clever ways. I’m just delighted by it.”

From the beginning of the submission video, “What’s it all Mean” stands out. The video starts with Gates walking into a small office, handing out papers, and checking on his employees as a groovy bass, guitar, and drum melody plays. As The Philharmonik makes his way to his keyboard and sits down, he starts to sing in an energetic way that just makes the viewer want to snap their fingers and dance to the beat. 

Not only was this opener a cool eye-capturing entrance, but it also had a deeper meaning behind it. 

“The desks weren’t only in the video to solely fulfill the requirements of the Tiny Desk Contest, but to also amplify the message of ‘What’s it All Mean?’ and the existential question life poses to all people,” Gates said to NPR. “I’m pretty sure most of us have pondered this question at a desk.” 

Gates uses an upbeat melody that counteracts some of the lyrics that ask heavier existential questions. This creates a song that anyone can relate to; whether it’s a child who wants to work hard or an adult experiencing burnout for the first time, everyone can listen to, dance to, or enjoy the song.

‘“What’s It All Mean” details my existential crisis in a way that reflects my relationship with life so far,” Gates said to American Songwriter. “I don’t know what’s really going on, or if life has inherent meaning, but I do know that overall I’m grateful for the experience of life’s mysteries: the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

The lyrics weren’t the only thing that brought something new to the table: the bass and keyboard settings give remembrance to a 70’s style song, a stylistic trend making a comeback, with artists such as Bruno Mars and Miley Cirrus, using similar styles in their songs. But, Gates brings something new to the table by juxtaposing a happy melody with deeper lyrics. Gates not only does both of these things, but does them well, a testament to the overall quality of the lyrics and his melody composition skills.

It’s a song and a message we all can connect to — and more importantly, they brought something fresh.

— Bobby Carter

“If Christian and the band sat in front of a black backdrop and played ‘What’s It All Mean?,’ they would still win the Contest,” Tiny Desk contest judge and Tiny Desk series host Bobby Carter said to NPR. “It’s a song and a message we all can connect to — and more importantly, they brought something fresh.”

Gates also credits the support of his community in Sacramento, California to his success with his song and video. After being in a total carloss accident while he was driving an Uber, Gates was unable to continue his job and was struggling to make ends meet. When He came to the Sacramento community for help with his vision, the community answered with resounding support and provided funding. The outcome is a song and video that everyone in Sacramento can be proud of.

“[The song]  was the most important aspect of things because this was a concept that was much larger than life and much larger than one person being able to fulfill it,” Gates said to capradio.  “And so I’m eternally grateful for everybody in Sacramento that came together to make this happen.”

About the Contributor
Emma O'Hair
Emma O'Hair, Staff Writer
Emma O’Hair is a sophomore and a first time member of the "Bulldog Tribune". She plays the trumpet for the school band and volleyball for the high school team. In her free time she enjoys listening to Taylor Swift, reading the Six of Crows book series, and talking with friends.